2002 Atlanta Falcons season
|2002 Atlanta Falcons season|
|Head coach||Dan Reeves|
|Home field||Georgia Dome|
|Division place||2nd NFC South|
|Playoff finish||Won Wild Card Playoffs (at Packers) 27–7
Lost Divisional Playoffs (at Eagles) 6–20
The 2002 Atlanta Falcons season was their 37th in the league and first in the newly-formed NFC South. The team improved upon their previous season's output of 7–9 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in four years. The team was also involved in a rare tie, matching the Pittsburgh Steelers 34–34 at the end of overtime. This was the most recent tie in the NFL until the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals tied 13–13 in the 2008 season.
Before the season, the Falcons acquired running back Warrick Dunn to help with the team's running game. Their running game has suffered the past three years. Dunn finished the season with 927 rushing yards and 9 total touchdowns.
After seeing limited action as a rookie, this was Michael Vick's first full season as starting quarterback.
In the Wild Card Game, Vick and the Falcons easily stunned the Brett Favre-led Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, 27-7, giving the Packers their first ever playoff loss in Lambeau. However, a 20-6 shutout to Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles in the next round kept the Falcons from advancing in the playoffs.
Vick and linebacker Keith Brooking were voted to play in the Pro Bowl after the season. However, both Vick and Brooking did not play in the game. The Pro Bowl was Vick's first and Brooking's second.
|2002 Atlanta Falcons staff|
Special teams coaches
Strength and conditioning
|1||September 8, 2002||at Green Bay Packers||L 37–34||
|2||September 15, 2002||Chicago Bears||L 14–13||
|3||September 22, 2002||Cincinnati Bengals||W 30–3||
|5||October 6, 2002||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||L 20–6||
|6||October 13, 2002||at New York Giants||W 17–10||
|7||October 20, 2002||Carolina Panthers||W 30–0||
|8||October 27, 2002||at New Orleans Saints||W 37–35||
|9||November 3, 2002||Baltimore Ravens||W 20–17||
|10||November 10, 2002||at Pittsburgh Steelers||T 34–34||
|11||November 17, 2002||New Orleans Saints||W 24–17||
|12||November 24, 2002||at Carolina Panthers||W 41–0||
|13||December 1, 2002||at Minnesota Vikings||W 30–24||
|14||December 8, 2002||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||L 34–10||
|15||December 15, 2002||Seattle Seahawks||L 30–24||
|16||December 22, 2002||Detroit Lions||W 36–15||
|17||December 29, 2002||at Cleveland Browns||L 24–16||
|Wild Card||January 4, 2003||at Green Bay Packers||W 27–7||
|Divisional||January 11, 2003||at Philadelphia Eagles||L 20–6||
- September 8 @ Green Bay Packers
The Falcons debuted in the new NFC South with what proved to be the first of two meetings at Lambeau Field with the Packers. After a Ryan Longwell field goal for the Packers in the first quarter new Falcons starting quarterback Michael Vick began moving Atlanta's offense and ran in a one-yard touchdown early in the second; not three minutes after Vick's touchdown the Falcons had the ball back and Warrick Dunn ran in a touchdown. A David Martin catch from Brett Favre followed, but the Falcons led 21–10 at the half. Green Bay surged back to the lead on touchdowns by Rondell Mealey and rookie Javon Walker for a 27–24 lead. Scores by Dunn and William Henderson left the Packers up 34–31 before Jay Feely tied it on the final play of regulation. It took nearly ten minutes of overtime before Longwell finished it off with a 34-yard field goal and a 37–34 Packers win.
- October 27 @ New Orleans Saints
Atlanta's perennial arch-foe, the Saints had raced to a 6–1 record when they hosted the 3–3 Falcons. The Saints clawed to a 10–0 lead in the first quarter, then Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn rushing scores put Atlanta up 14–10 at the half. Bob Christian ran in a score early in the third, but less than two minutes later Aaron Brooks landed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Deuce McAllister and then caught a two-point pass from Boo Williams. Two Jay Feely field goals and a Joe Horn touchdown made it 27–25 Atlanta early in the fourth before Vick ran 32 yards for another touchdown. The Saints erupted with another McAllister score and a John Carney field goal, but on the final play Feely finished off the Saints from 47 yards out and a 37–35 Falcons win.
- November 3 vs. Baltimore Ravens
Now 4–3, the Falcons began riding momentum as they hosted the 3–4 Ravens. Michael Vick completed only 12 of 24 passes with one INT and rushed seven times, suffering a net loss of five yards. Despite this the Falcons stayed toe-to-toe with the Ravens, racing to a 17–3 lead in the second before Baltimore tied it. Kicker Jay Feely booted a 40-yard field goal in the third, and after that the Falcons defense shut out the Ravens enough for a 20–17 Atlanta win.
- November 10 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Former draft bust (and XFL champ) Tommy Maddox replaced Kordell Stewart early in the season and the Steelers overcame an 0–2 start to win five of their next six games. The Steelers fell behind 7–3 following a 43-yard touchdown from Michael Vick to Shawn Jefferson, but two Maddox touchdown throws put Pittsburgh up 17–7 at the half. After a 59-yard Warrick Dunn score Maddox found Plaxico Burress from 62 yards out, but the PAT was blocked. Maddox later found Jerame Tuman and a two-point throw to Hines Ward, and the Steelers led 34–17 with ten minutes to go. But Vick exploded on the ground and in the air, racing the Falcons to set up Bob Christian's one-yard score, then a 40-yard Jay Feely field goal, and finally an 11-yard rushing touchdown himself with 32 seconds in regulation. Tied at 34 the Steelers clawed within range of a 48-yard field goal try; at this point Falcons receiver Brian Finneran was put onto special teams, an area he'd never played before; it proved decisive as Finneran blocked the kick. After an exchange of punts Maddox was picked off by Kevin Mathis, setting up a 56-yard Feely kick in the final seconds of overtime; this kick was blocked, and there was one second remaining. Maddox thus launched a desperation heave of some 60 yards; in traffic it was caught by Burress but he was ruled down at the one-foot line, and the game ended tied at 34, the first NFL tie since 1997. "It's a win for them," said a bitter Joey Porter. "To come back from 17 points down in the fourth quarter, it's a win for them, a loss for us."
- December 1 @ Minnesota Vikings
Michael Vick's running had steadily become a major story in the league, and it became his signature play against the struggling Vikings. It was only the second game between the two clubs since the stunning NFC Title Game upset by the Falcons and the Vikings were smarting from a 3–8 record. The game lead tied or changed on every score; Daunte Culpepper ran in a touchdown and connected on a two-yard score to Hunter Goodwin, while the Falcons behind 227 total rushing yards scored on rushing touchdowns by Vick and Bob Christian. With the Falcons up 24–21 in the final seconds, the Vikings reached the Falcons 10; Culpepper handed off to Randy Moss and Moss turned and tossed the ball to Culpepper for an apparent touchdown, but the Vikings were flagged for illegal formation and Gary Anderson booted a 29-yarder. In overtime the Falcons got the ball first and just over two minutes in Vick dropped back to pass from the Vikings 46; with no receivers open he scrambled, then found a hole, cut back right, and raced in the winning touchdown (30–24 final), putting the Falcons at 8–3–1 and still within shot of the division title.
- December 15 vs. Seattle Seahawks
A loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following week hurt Atlanta's title chances and they effectively ended against the Seahawks. The Falcons raced to a 17–7 lead in the first half but the Seahawks clawed back and surged to a 21–17 lead after Willie Williams ran back a Falcons fumble in the third. Seattle surged to a 24–17 lead but Vick landed a 12-yard touchdcown into the hands of Trevor Gaylor with 17 seconds in regulation. The ensuing overtime lasted over ten minutes before Shaun Alexander burst from the Falcons 27 to finish it off at 30–24.
- December 29 @ Cleveland Browns
Week 17 of the 2002 season became a dizzying conundrum with multiple teams battling for a handful of playoff spots in both conferences. The Falcons needed a win over Cleveland or a Saints loss to Carolina to make the playoffs, while the 8–7 Browns needed a win and help around the AFC to make it to the club's first playoffs since the original incarnation of the Browns made it in 1994. The Falcons-Browns game and the fate of the two teams' playoff hopes became intertwined with New Orleans vs. Carolina, the New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins, and the New York Jets vs. Green Bay Packers. The Panthers embarrassed the Saints by forcing multiple turnovers and winning 10–6, while the Patriots erased a 24–13 gap to beat the Dolphins; in Cleveland the Falcons clawed to a 16–10 lead after three quarters, but Kelly Holcomb's touchdown to Kevin Johnson in the fourth was followed by a 64-yard William Green touchdown run. The Falcons raced to the Browns 1-yard line, but two straight runs by Warrick Dunn were stopped, and the Browns, winners 24–16, now had to wait to see if they would make the playoffs – the Jets got them in by hammering the Packers and thus eliminating Miami and New England, while Atlanta made it in on New Orleans' loss.
- January 4, 2003, NFC Wild Card Game @ Green Bay Packers
The Falcons traveled to Lambeau Field, where the Packers had never lost a playoff game in their history; thirteen playoff games had been played at Lambeau and the Packers had won all of them. That ended on a bitterly cold night as the Falcons upset the Packers. The Falcons scored first on a ten-yard Michael Vick pass to Shawn Jefferson, then Mark Simoneau blocked a Packers punt at their 1-yard line and Artie Ulmer scored. The Falcons defense bullied the Packers into three fumbles and Brett Favre's reputation for playoff recklessness led to two interceptions by Keion Carpenter. The Falcons rushed for 192 yards, 128 of them split between Vick and Warrick Dunn, as the Falcons raced to a 27–7 win, Green Bay's first ever home playoff loss.
|(2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers||12||4||0||.750||4–2||9–3||346||196||W1|
|(6) Atlanta Falcons||9||6||1||.594||4–2||7–5||402||314||L1|
|New Orleans Saints||9||7||0||.563||3–3||7–5||432||388||L3|